IVF is BIG business…part 1

Infertility is one of the most painful experiences a woman will ever go through.  It cuts you to your primal core and you don’t leave without having changed in some way.  I may have had success but it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.  I’m unresolved, as they say.  But for many women in this world, there will never be a pregnancy or a baby shower or even a marriage once IVF has had their way with them.  These bitter, painful stories don’t get much mention in mainstream media or much sympathy, to be honest. How many times has a woman been told to “just adopt” or be happy for what you have? It could be worse, you could be going blind…..oh the comments.  And then the world celebrates the pregnant celebrity at age 50 with their gorgeous boy/girl twins. The words surrogate or donor eggs might be thought but they sure as hell aren’t getting spoken (unless someone outs them – which does tend to happen).  People bemoan the duty of said celebrity to speak about their journey “for the rest of us” but knowing how painful the whole procedure is, I don’t blame them.   So I get it, the public still thinks that they can have babies at 50 (yes, even my friends in their late 40s and early 50s are still on the pill because they are afraid their OH SO FERTILE bodies will get pregnant).  My point is, this isn’t a slam dunk.  Not everyone has success with IVF and you better believe that has plenty to do with the fact that ART is becoming as popular as the big mac.  Nobody wants to talk about the failures sure as our food industry doesn’t want to talk about what is happening to our bodies or to our children (THAT is another blog post for sure).  In IVF/ART land all is well and there is always hope.  Just like Disneyland – you only see what they want you to see – going backstage is a completely different experience (just ask my husband, he worked at Eurodisney straight out of college – I think the analogy is apt – he describes backstage at Disney something out of a correctional facility, by the way).

IVF is such big business because women are delaying their family building plans (for so many reasons from financial to career to plain old “I haven’t met a guy I want to have a telephone conversation with much less marry”.  The changes in our society are making some doctors very wealthy and the whole industry is getting bigger.  Bigger scares me. Bigger should scare you.

When I started this process (I was in the office of an RE two weeks after I got married), I was a doe-eyed, newlywed, an optimistic little thing with big dreams.  Dreams that were born when I was a toddler (thank you, Walt Disney).

In the beautiful offices of my new RE there were hundreds of pictures of babies and books about parenting on every table.  The entire place screamed “here are where your dreams are made”…I quickly formed an attachment with my affable RE that, looking back, was not healthy.  He was fatherly and spoke with authority. He made jokes and made me feel special…I knew that my future family was important to him.  Whatever this man said was like a word straight from the bible. I asked A LOT of questions and he reveled in the attention.  He told me about “this blah blah conference where I spoke on ICSI”..ladidahdidah. I was enthralled.  I took notes.  He also liked reggaeton. He let me peek into his life and I spread mine open for him to examine (figuratively and I guess literally not to be TOOO crass).  After months of “trying” ahead of my wedding, I was now going to escalate the process.  I was 37 when I married and the clock was ticking.  I was making it happen. I remember taking a co-worker with me to the clinic for monitoring and showing her the 8 growing follicles on the monitor – wondering aloud which would be my child or children.  My fear at that point in life was multiples.  I was terrified that I’d be having six children at once.  I never once considered that I would walk out of there empty handed. Like everything else I’d known to be true, I’d be a mother…that was a given, just as I’d go to college and meet a nice man and eventually have a dog and picket fence.  I’d already created my life long before I started living it, it seems.

In this clinic I started to learn a few of my first lessons in infertility and the business of disappointment.  The first lesson, looking back, is that I was an enormous dollar sign. I represented many, many potential dollar bills. They has assessed me – they knew my financials (where we worked, how much my husband made, how much I made) and they knew my desire was strong. They combined financial potential with desire and came up with an equation.  I was worth at least 3 climid cycles, 3 IUS and 7 IVF procedures.  Oh yes, my commitment was strong and I had really amazing insurance and back up cash at that point..  They started me off on Clomid and let one of my follicles reach 28 before triggering me.  28!  The other was around 24.  I started to get annoyed and thus began my studies in Google MD.  The next Clomid cycle was an interesting one.  I got pregnant but nobody gave me progesterone.  My level was a whopping 5 but I had a positive pregnancy.  Not viable, they said.  Quite likely because I was never given progesterone support.  I left that clinic and never went back – far short of their financial plan for me, that much I know.  I had no plan B for the first time in my life.  I vowed to do a bit more research for the next time. It was 2005 so things like vitrification didn’t exist (or if they did, they were not widespread).  PGD was around and things like CGH were but a hope….  My new boss found out that I was struggling and pulled me into his office. At the time I was working as the right hand for the COO of a very large investment bank.  My boss was extraordinarily success at everything but procreation, it seemed.  He gave me a number and a name of a doctor that would help.  His wife was currently pregnant with twins and they had been trying for six years until they went to the name on the paper. I walked out of his office and dialed the number.  Unfortunately they were full and would not be able to see me for six months.  I mentioned my boss’s name and suddenly the doctor was available to meet me that day – he would forego his lunch for me. It was only one lunch, after all.

Future told, my visit would enable him to eat about 20 years worth of lunches.  Yes, 20 years.

And this is just the beginning.

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What people say and why they shouldn’t….

1. You should adopt and then you will get pregnant.

Yeah – ok your cousin’s best friend’s sister did this TWICE and was able to get pregnant after she wasn’t “focusing” so hard on having a baby.  Um.  Whatever.  Everyone has these stories and while I am glad to hear that things like this do happen – consider a woman who has been through 10 failed IVFs, multiple IUIs and a second trimester miscarriage – I know lots and lots of them.  So please, I know you are trying to be helpful but you aren’t.  You are being annoying and if you tell me that story one more time I am going to punch your head in.  I’m serious.

2. All my husband had to do was look at me and I got pregnant – I’m so fertile

You are very lucky and I wish they gave our medals for such amazing feats!  I worship you!  May I just ask, what does this have to do with me?  Nothing – oh right!  Weren’t you just asking how my fertility treatments were going?  Silly me – I guess you wanted to talk about you!   I’ll let it pass this time but NEXT time I am going to spend the next hour talking non-stop about my e2 levels for each and every day of my last six cycles and exactly what they mean – we’ll go over them in detail and I’ll bore you (hopefully to death).  I also have photos (REAL PHOTOGRAPHY) of my ovaries – that will surely finish you off.

3.  You can have some of my eggs.

You are 40 years old and just because you eeked out one good egg does not mean you are the goddess of all fertility.  In fact, did you know by chance that most of your little eggies are rife with chromosomal abnormalities by the age of 40!?!   To answer your question, no I don’t want your old eggs – I’ve got enough of my own.

4. You can always adopt.

Fuck off.

5. You can always buy a dog.

Seriously fuck off.

6.  My husband has super sperm and that is why I am able to get pregnant.

Good thing too – because he is no fun to look at.

7. If you just relax it will happen.

Good thing I didn’t listen to this particular bit of assvice or I would not have my son.  This bugs me the most.  Let’s have a little biology lesson, shall we?  When you have abnormal sperm meeting abnormal egg it results in either no conception or an abnormal embryo which more than often results in NO PREGNANCY.  When you have one normal egg and one abnormal sperm  – you get the same glorious result.  When you have one abnormal egg and one normal sperm – the same result again!!!  And throw in a few bad timings (normal egg and normal sperm but didn’t get a chance to meet) and a few implantation failures and a few chemical pregnancies….not to mention blocked fallopian tubes, low sperm count, premature ovarian failure, endometriosis, bi-corniate uterus, asherman’s syndrome, etc. etc……please never mention relaxing again.  No amount of relaxation is going to give me (and many women) a child.  That is why were are seeing a doctor!!

8. These days it is really easy for a 45 year old woman to get pregnant – the technology is amazing. Everyone in Hollywood is waiting to have babies later in life.

You need to google “donor egg”, my friend.

9. So many people are having trouble conceiving – it must be God’s way of culling the population.

My friend really said this….I let it pass – it was her birthday!

10. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be

Thanks, mom.  I’ll get back to you after my therapist appointment.

11.  Are you pregnant yet?

Dickhead – stop asking met his question!  You’ll know when I am pregnant because I will be shouting it from the rooftops.  If I had cancer would you be asking me “hey how is that cancer going”….the answer is hopefully no.

12. So how many embryos did the doctor IMPLANT and doesn’t that mean you could have like sextuplets?

A doctor transfers the embryo into the uterus – they choose whether or not to implant (please get that right because you sound stupid) and no, it doesn’t mean anything.  I tranfered 21 embryos into my uterus to get one little boy.  Think about that.

Ok – time to play with DS – he is finally getting bored with Thomas the tank engine.  I’m not bored (or done with this thread however).  I’ll be back with more nuggets of wisdom from non thinking fertile friends and enemies – oh yeah and FRENEMIES!

Friends and other morons..

Let me preface this post by saying that I have extremely supportive friends – both IRL and online.  I don’t mean this as a big fat whinge but I need to get it off my chest for once and for all.

Because I kept my struggle to have a child pretty quiet (well, not if you were my co-worker back at Credit Suisse in 2006!).  People don’t really understand – and it has taken this blog for some of you to realize the depths and lengths we have gone to have a child.  Compared to many others, we didn’t have to struggle too long.  Thanks in part to my RE who believed that I should have back to back cycles (many REs make you wait a month between each failed cycle to give your body a rest – but my RE thinks focusing on the negative cycle during your downtime is psychologically detrimental – I tend to agree).

After our third IVF we had success….and for that I am eternally grateful….and I am also grateful (believe it or not) for our infertility.  I really feel that I am better mother for having had to contemplate never having a child of my own.  I feel so appreciative and blessed.  Had I conceived with ease….I might not have realized how desperately I wanted to be a mother and I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the miracle who calls me Mama.  Who knows though.

I’m blabbering.

The other day a friend of mine asked how I was doing and how fertility treatments were going.  When I told him that I was doing an IUI he seemed very ready to tell me “you have one beautiful child already, why don’t you just adopt” – which really took me by surprise.  It isn’t the first time I’ve had friends and family tell me that I should grateful for the child that I have and stop chasing after another one.  I’ve even been told (by several people!) that I can always get a dog.

The level of insensitivity that it takes to make such comments baffles me.  The assumption behind these comments must be that I am being greedy for wanting my son to have a sibling – perhaps they think that I am “never happy” or selfish for not adopting when there are “so many children that need a home”.  Blah blah.  Not one of these people who have made these comments has ever walked in my shoes.  Every single one of them has been able to easily make their reproductive choices.  Every.SINGLE.one.OF.THEM.

I know I put myself out there by talking so frankly about what we are going through (especially me) but if you don’t have something supportive to say to me – just shut up.  This process is hard enough and I don’t need jackass comments from clueless morons.

Incidentally we are not adopting because my husband is not “keen” on the idea.  He is afraid that he might not love another child the way he loves his biological one.  Who am I to argue with this?  I would never convince him otherwise – because what if it is the truth?  I know I could love an adopted child as much as  my own – but we are a partnership.

I’m going to compile a little list, my friends – and I’d like you to read it and digest it and educate yourself on the feelings of the infertile.

Until you have walked in those shoes and down that path – you couldn’t possibly know an innocent question like  “so when are you going to have kids” might send someone to the bathroom for a good old cry.

*and to my friend who made the insensitive comments – I forgive you and still value our friendship.